Workforce opportunities for rural and urban residents, people with CORIs, or other employment challenges
The launch of Terran 1, the world’s first 3D-printed rocket, is an inspiring reminder of the growing importance of advanced manufacturing. Massachusetts needs to become a leader in advanced manufacturing, if for no other reason than to support the state’s life sciences, environmental, and high-tech sectors.
One path toward this goal runs through schools such as the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, which recently received a $12.5 million grant from the Cummings Foundation. The school has a new campus under construction along with a million-dollar grant from Samuels & Associates to help students prepare for new opportunities in the life sciences, such as jobs in regenerative manufacturing and biomanufacturing—the building of cells, tissues, and organs. Investments like this will enable Massachusetts to leverage its strength in the life sciences, complementing its strength in healthcare.
Right now, Massachusetts leads in biotechnology but not in biomanufacturing. California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and Indiana all have more workers in the drugs and pharmaceuticals manufacturing segment. Some argue that Massachusetts cannot be a leader in manufacturing because of its high energy, labor, and real estate costs, but California, New York, and New Jersey are known for being low-cost manufacturing states. The products produced using advanced manufacturing are somewhat price inelastic, so some of the higher manufacturing costs can be passed along without reducing demand.
New initiatives can propel Massachusetts forward, such as Nubian Square Ascends, a $111 million, 200,000-square-foot development in Roxbury that will create significant life sciences space. The project is expected to create or sustain approximately 900 jobs, including contracting opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses during all phases of construction. Additionally, My City at Peace and HYM Investment Group are looking to build 700,000 square feet of life sciences space on Parcel P3 in Roxbury.
As executive director of Greater Grove Hall Main Streets, I’m excited about these potential developments and what they could do for the local economy. In Grove Hall, our current business mix consists of barbershops, hair and nail salons, bodegas, convenience stores, nonprofit agencies, storefront churches, and quick-serve restaurants, which do not offer jobs that pay enough for people to buy or even rent homes in Boston.
Trinh Nguyen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development, is leading the effort to make sure the public-private partnerships create great, high-paying jobs for residents of Roxbury and Dorchester. Such jobs will enable economic development and wealth creation in the area and reduce Boston’s affordable housing shortage, as more residents will be able to afford market rate housing.
With more life sciences space, Massachusetts could expand its biomanufacturing capacity, including 3D bioprinting and biofabrication. The burgeoning clinical biomanufacturing applications market includes skin printing, bone and cartilage printing, blood vessel printing, and even organ printing. Doctors and bioengineers have already 3D-printed a bladder and successfully transplanted it into a human. The ability to customize organs for recipients would complement the state’s healthcare leadership, and it will be possible if young Black and brown students, as well as adults from Roxbury and Dorchester, learn biomanufacturing skills.
The same is true when it comes to producing environmentally friendly technologies and products. We can use advanced manufacturing to build everything from solar panels and wind turbines to next-generation electric cars, batteries, appliances, and building materials in a way that is competitive with China. China has become the world’s largest manufacturing economy due to its large population, low labor and energy costs, investments in infrastructure and manufacturing technologies, and regulatory environment. We can use advanced manufacturing to mitigate many of those advantages, regain control over our supply chain, shorten lead times, and manufacture more of what we invent in Massachusetts.
With advanced manufacturing, not only can we avoid dark, dirty, and dangerous manufacturing facilities, we can make them LEED certified and environmentally friendly. Advanced manufacturing can be safe, smart and sustainable, better for the environment than traditional manufacturing in several ways:
Energy efficiency: Advanced manufacturing uses less energy per unit of production, resulting in lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduced energy costs.
Resource conservation: Advanced manufacturing uses fewer raw materials and resources than traditional manufacturing methods because it produces parts and components with greater precision, resulting in less material waste.
Waste reduction: 3D printing can produce complex parts with minimal waste, while traditional machining methods often produce a significant amount of scrap material.
Environmental impact: 3D printing produces less air and water pollution than traditional machining methods.
Flexibility: The ability to produce small batches of products quickly and efficiently reduces the need for large-scale production runs and excess inventory.
Every Massachusetts governor since Deval Patrick has invested in advanced manufacturing. Gov. Maura Healey should develop an advanced manufacturing policy of her own that reflects her vision while considering the current technology environment and where it’s headed. Advanced manufacturing can provide workforce opportunities for rural and urban residents, people with CORIs, or other employment challenges, workers looking to upskill or reskill, and those who don’t want to go into debt for higher education.
With top technology-forward colleges and universities such as MIT, Wentworth, Clark, and Worcester Polytechnic, Massachusetts should be able to build its own initiative—much like New York’s Buffalo Manufacturing Works. This organization helps manufacturers with challenges involving new product innovation, process efficiency and quality improvements while also assisting companies in transitioning to advanced manufacturing. In partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and other social service agencies, Buffalo Manufacturing Works offers a range of wrap-around social services to help those with employment challenges get and keep high-paying high-tech manufacturing jobs.
Such an initiative should be seen as critical infrastructure to support manufacturers in New England and beyond while addressing the workforce development challenges faced by Black and brown communities in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan.
It’s time for Gov. Healey to capitalize on the opportunity to lead public-private partnerships that can reshape manufacturing in the state, link blue- and white-collar jobs, ensure more of what is invented here gets made here, and support our life sciences, environmental, and high-tech industries.